Penrith’s 19-year-old halfback Nathan Cleary gave a tremendous performance, scoring three tries and five goals for 22 points, and having a massive influence throughout the game as the Panthers triumphed 34-22 at Mount Smart Stadium, while the Warriors lost their main playmaker Shaun Johnson with a leg injury in the second half.
The Warriors were unchanged from the 17 players named on Tuesday, with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Jazz Tevaga dropping out of their extended squad.
The Panthers were without Matt Moylan, allowing Tyrone May to make a tryscoring NRL debut at stand-off and Trent Merrin captaining the side in Moylan’s absence. Moses Leota dropped out of the extended squad.
A brilliant first half from Cleary has the Penrith Panthers leading the Warriors 18-12 at the break in Auckland, although the Warriors had taken the lead after just two minutes when Simon Mannering crossed for a converted try.
The Panthers replied with Corey Harawira-Naera getting on the end of a Cleary grubber.
Waqa Blake dropped the kick-off, allowing Solomone Kata to give the Warriors the lead again with a try from dummy-half. But then a series of superb offloads from Cleary and Trent Merrin saw Tyrone May over for a try on his debut.
Cleary scored his first try six minutes before the break, converting his own score to give the Panthers a six-point advantage.
In the second half the Warriors scored two early tries from Kata and Bodene Thompson to give themselves a 22-18 lead, but in between the two touchdowns they lost Johnson and that would be fatal to their chances, as Clearly zipped in for two more tries and Blake wrapped up the scoring for what was ultimately a convincing victory for the Panthers.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) , 2 David Fusitua , 3 Blake Ayshford , 4 Solomone Kata , 21 Ken Maumalo , 6 Kieran Foran , 7 Shaun Johnson , 8 Jacob Lillyman , 9 Issac Luke , 10 Ben Matulino , 11 Bodene Thompson , 12 Bunty Afoa , 13 Simon Mannering; Interchange: 14 Ata Hingano , 15 Sam Lisone , 16 James Gavet , 17 Ligi Sao
Tries: Mannering, Kata 2, Thompson; Goals: Johnson 2, Luke
Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards , 2 Josh Mansour , 3 Tyrone Peachey , 4 Waqa Blake , 5 Dallin Watene Zelezniak , 19 Tyrone May, 7 Nathan Cleary , 8 James Tamou , 9 Mitch Rein , 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard , 11 Corey Harawira-Naera , 12 Isaah Yeo , 13 Trent Merrin (c); Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa , 15 Leilani Latu , 16 Tim Browne , 17 James Fisher-Harri.
Tries: Harawira-Naera, May, Cleary 3, Blake; Goals: Cleary 5
Reports from all the weekend’s NRL matches can be seen in the next issue of League Express, in the shops on Monday and online from Monday night.